RUTF Use in India

"A malnourished 21-month-old boy named Satish and his mother, Leela, at the Shivpuri feeding center last November." - All photo credit goes to Ruth Fremson from The New York Times "As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists"

Hello Plumpy’nut Press readers!  Given the feedback on my post The Crisis in India, I’ve decided to do much more in-depth research on this issue. I’m currently enrolled in a Politics of Development class and for my final research assignment, I selected to explore the divergent opinions in India versus Ethopia regarding the use of Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods like Plumpy’nut.  While Ethiopia has welcomed the use of Plumpy’nut and is the recipient country of all money raised by the Walk for Plumpy’nut, India has banned its use in the country. Rather, India’s Ministry for Women and Child Development advocates its Integrated Child Development Scheme’s (ICDS) use of hot cooked meals as the ideal nutrition supplement.  If you have any resources or contacts you’d like to recommend regarding this issue, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Stay tuned for more info on my research’s progress. . . and a big thank you for your curiosity in learning more!


5 Years, $20,000 for Plumpy’nut!

Wow! What a whirlwind of a year for Food for Thought!  I’m beyond thrilled to announce that Food for Thought reached its goal this year to raise at least $4,000 for Plumpy’nut.  Now that this year’s Walk for Plumpy’nut has passed, we can officially announce that we’ve raised over $20,000 to support Concern Worldwide’s feeding centers throughout Ethiopia. Sylvia Wong, Concern Worldwide’s Education Officer, made the journey from New York City to teach participants about how acute childhood malnutrition is diagnosed and treated.  We were so happy she could join us!

Between the beautiful weather and beautiful souls at the walk, it was easily one of the happiest days I can imagine.  Cass Park burst with energy and was booming with laughter and music as Ithaca College students and friends joined together on Saturday, October 8th. “The only way I can describe my feelings during the event was that my heart was happy, I felt fulfilled,” Smith, Food for Thought’s assistant Communications Director, says. John Vogan, Secretary of Food for Thought, added “We helped support a very important and worthwhile cause while having fun at the same time,” he says.

Thanks to Jake Lifschultz and Deanna Dearo’s photography, we have some photos to share from the wonderful day!

Plumpy’nut in Somalia – An Update from CESVI

CESVI logoTurn on CNN or World News or glance at the front-page of any major newspaper and you’re sure to learn of the worsening situation in the Horn of Africa.  A devastating famine is ravaging the region.  Somalia is bearing the brunt of the crisis with nearly 4 million people at risk of starvation.  In the past 90 days, 29,000 Somali children have fallen victim to the worst food crisis to hit the region in six decades.  Irene Moora, a Nutrition Specialist from CESVI, an Italian humanitarian organization, returned from Galkayo, Somalia just a few days ago and shares with Plumpy’nut Press readers the situation in the region.  Irene spent her time in Somalia working with a project funded by UNICEF that seeks to ensure access to quality emergency health and nutrition services in rural and semi-rural areas in South Mudug.  Read on below and to continue this conversation with @cesvinairobi!

You just returned from Galkayo, Somalia, can you tell Plumpy’nut Press readers about what the situation is like there?

The situation in Galkayo is critical and it’s marked with increased number of admissions of severely acute malnourished under five children to inpatient and outpatient therapeutic care nutrition programmes. The rising admissions could be attributed to several prevailing factors including diseases, inadequate dietary intakes, food insecurity, and poor sanitation among others.

Food access for most households is poor due to reduced purchasing power and ever rising food prices for both local and imported food products. The prices are likely to skyrocket during the Ramadan season due to the increasing demand for food. The population in Galkayo depends on livestock for their livelihoods. The animal health is currently deteriorating as a result of diminishing pasture and lack of water. This has in turn reduced milk production of these animals.

What is CESVI doing to provide relief in the Horn of Africa?

CESVI is scaling up its health and nutrition activities in its already existing programmes to increase coverage. We are also identifying new geographical areas where there are gaps to start up health and nutrition intervention programmes in both Kenya and Somalia.

What kind of nutrition programs did you work with in Somalia?

CESVI has an ongoing outpatient therapeutic nutrition programme. This programme targets under five children with MUAC (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) < 11.5cm or z-score <-3 without complications as the admission criteria. The beneficiaries meeting this criterion are followed up weekly and provided with Plumpy’nut ration.

Can you tell Plumpy’nut Press readers about how Plumpy’nut is being used in Somalia?

Every child who meets the admission criteria to the outpatient therapeutic care programme is admitted to the nutrition programme. Upon admission, the health staff carry out a Plumpy’nut  appetite test for all the children. If the test is good, the children are given a week’s ration of Plumpy’nut where they are supposed to consume a certain number of satchets per day depending on their body weight. They are then given a return date on a weekly basis to review their progress during the treatment period. If there are no underlying conditions, children are able to recover within a period of 2 months from malnutrition.

Why are children the most vulnerable victims to famine?

Children under the age of five are at their early age of growth and development. During this stage, their nutrient needs are higher than later ages in life. Equally, the children are very active at early ages; therefore their nutrient intake should be able to meet body requirements. In famine, food security is greatly compromised and children are massively affected as the nutrient intake is much lower compared to body needs.

What can be done in the long-term to make sure a situation this futile doesn’t happen again? What can Plumpy’nut Press readers do to help?

For short term, Plumpy’nut may be used to manage and treat malnutrition.  However, it is important to implement integrated interventions to address the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition as presented in the UNICEF conceptual framework of causes of malnutrition.

Long-term interventions may include:

  • Harvesting and storage of water to be used during dry spells
  • Improved access to health care
  • Health promotion on hygiene and sanitation
  • Health education on infant and young child caring practices
  • Education for all

Feast or Famine – A Reflection from Edesia

Photo Credit: Edesia LLC

Below is an extremely compelling and urgent message from Navyn Salem, Executive Director of Edesia, a nonprofit that is certainly deserving of attention as a leader in childhood malnutrition relief.  As nearly 11 million people suffer from the worst drought in sixty years, Edesia is rapidly increasing production to meet the needs of the many malnourished children in the region.  To contribute to Edesia’s lifesaving work in the Horn of Africa, please visit this link.

As the Executive Director of Edesia, I am often troubled. Our success is dependent on failure, failure on a grand scale somewhere else in the world. When mother-nature and the best efforts at development have failed, only then are we needed.

My job is to reach those suffering from the most severe cases of malnutrition through a therapeutic peanut paste called Plumpy‟nut®. Every morning I read my “Google Alerts” reporting on the malnutrition hotspots of the day. My heart aches and tears run, reading about the seemingly insurmountable hardships that millions endure every day and hearing their personal stories. Today it is the Horn of Africa; 10 million people are affected by the worst drought in 60 years. With no water, there is little chance for survival, children are dying and mothers simply can’t get them help fast enough.

I wonder why it is ok to wait until a situation like this becomes a crisis. We see it coming, we know it is more cost-effective to treat sooner, Edesia makes other products that can help prevent malnutrition or treat moderate cases with less funding and we know it is the right thing to do. Without funds for these products, the Edesia factory sits idle. If the crisis doesn’t reach the headlines, funds do not arrive. Those “everyday” crises like the 19 million children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition every year just have to wait. Presumably, this is because it is the same story every year and not “catchy” enough for the nightly news.

On the home front, in Providence, Rhode Island, I started this social enterprise, a non-profit factory, in 2009 to create jobs in one of the states with the highest unemployment rates and that ranks 50th in NBC‟s worst places in the United States to run a business. Most people do not see this as an opportunity – it’s not really, in any normal business sense – but this is not an ordinary business. I wanted to do something in my backyard that got people back to work and have an impact on a global problem. Many of my employees are refugees who have survived the unthinkable. Now they are in my hands and it is my job to make sure they can support their families in this new land of “opportunity” during an everlasting recession.

I worry every night that I can keep my employees busy enough to make ends meet. Just a month ago I had to make some layoffs and cut a shift. I could see that the situation in the Horn of Africa was getting worse by the minute, but with the global media focused on issues like Casey Anthony in the U.S., the fate of millions suffering half way around the world just could not compete. Without media attention needed to raise the funds, we can’t run the machines at capacity, which means we will ultimately not reach as many children.

Even closer to home, this week, I am attempting to take some time off with my husband and four daughters. While we are all enjoying the beach and roasting marshmallows around a bonfire, the fate of the world’s children weighs heavily on my shoulders. I hear my own children complain about the dinner options I am offering and I say the same thing all mothers do – “Don’t you know there are starving children in Africa?” Unfortunately for my girls, I follow-up this debate about what is for dinner with a Doctors Without Borders documentary on children in Bangladesh. That generally does the trick. (But my girls know that I am just waiting for them to be old enough to make their first trips to Haiti and beyond if they keep it up — and I am not one to make idle threats.)

Back to the Edesia factory: the media has begun to cover the ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa. As we go from layoffs to running 20+ hours a day, we perform a remarkable exercise in elasticity. I dream for a day with steady, predictable orders, but realize we are in the emergency business and this is never going to happen.

Most days I like the challenge. Today’s challenge is to meet all of our deadlines, because every minute counts in emergencies like this. Tomorrow’s challenge is to continue to innovate and create new products, new ideas, creative ways to serve the most vulnerable, which will allow us to keep having an impact, even when the funds just don’t come in.

And through it all, we yell from the rooftops, trying to tell everybody that there is a crisis that you can’t see. If you are there, in the field, and have seen what we have seen, you cannot turn your back and you do anything in your power to save that little life. Meanwhile, I also hope for a bright future for Edesia, after all, she is named for the Roman goddess of food. I hope she stays afloat and my employees keep their jobs and are able to feed their own families right here at home.

Children Most Vulnerable Victims in Horn of Africa Food Crisis

Photo from USAID - "USAID is providing life-saving nutrition and care for nearly 60,000 malnourished mothers and children in the Somali Region of Ethiopia."

Between the tragic attacks in Norway, the debate over the pressing debt ceiling timeline, and the Murdoch scandal, this week has bombarded us with headlines.  This week has also brought us heart wrenching images of children in the Horn of Africa, emaciated by weeks of drought and consequently, drastic food shortages.  We are now witnessing the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years.   Families, desperate for relief, have walked days in search of refuge in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.  Although thousands are far too frail to make the journey, ABC reports that refugee camps are “bursting at the seams.”

Children are the most vulnerable victims in this devastating crisis.  In a recently published article, The Guardian called it “the children’s famine.” USAID reported that while all of the children currently in the refugee camps are in need of emergency care and long-term support, nearly half are suffering from acute malnutrition. The need for products like Plumpy’nut is clearer than ever; two million children are in critical need of immediate food aid.  Ready-to-use therapeutic foods like Plumpy’nut do not need to mixed with water, can be distributed to those in refugee camps, and are packed with the calories, vitamins, and nutrients desperately needed by malnourished children.  Children who suffer from malnutrition are also far more susceptible to other ailments and disease. This is especially prevalent in places like refugee camps, which continue to increase in population daily.

Immediate aid is needed as relief organizations are seeing demand far outweigh supply.     Dr. Malia Kader of the International Refugee Committee stressed, “Resources are stretched. . . There’s a lot of strain on the system. We are trying to cope. The numbers are unprecedented.”  She went on to say, ”The kind of support we need is funding so we can buy more therapeutic food and it’s simple life-saving antibiotics and high calorific food” (ABC).  With the next harvest not set to take place for another four to five months, many see no immediate end in sight to the crisis.

“The Perfect Storm”

For several reasons, the situation in the Horn of Africa has quickly transpired from bad to worse.  CNN published an overview of the many factors that contributed to this dire humanitarian situation.  For the full report, read here.

As desperately as food is needed for millions in the Horn of Africa, the military extremist group, Al-Shabab, has blocked foreign aid in many regions of Somalia. Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stated, “The extremists are literally and deliberately starving the people to death” (Reuters Africa).  The extremist group has actually gone on to say that the drought is “propaganda” and claimed that the UN has falsified the magnitude of the situation.

By examining the root, structural causes of this horrific crisis, we must question why it takes a crisis of this size to make international headlines.  Of course, we regularly hear of worsening political situations, rising food prices, and hunger statistics, but still, two million children are in dire need of help.  We’ve seen food crises like this before.  Why do they continue?  Why do we allow history to repeat itself?  What can we do differently to ensure that nothing of this magnitude occurs again?


Photo from ONE - "Children play outside makeshift shelters in Mogadishu. Photo credit: Phil Moore/Concern Worldwide"

How Can I Help? – USAID Disaster Assistance Guide

Plumpy’nut Desperately Needed to Save Children in East Africa – Article by William Lamber’s on Edesia’s response to the crisis

The Guardian – East Africa Famine: Our Values are on Trial – Outstanding article on the impact of Plumpy’nut in the Horn of Africa

The Guardian – Famine We Could Avoid – An answer to some of the questions above

Concern Worldwide Emergency Appeal –  “Your donation could provide high-energy food for critically malnourished children and help bring them back from the brink. It could help us expand our work with communities to deliver safe, clean water and help stop the spread of disease.”







An Out-of-Control Poll

One of my favorite photos from Ethiopia

Before I began this blog post, my eyes wandered over to the side bar of WordPress where the word “Polls” caught my attention. I never noticed this option before, but thought, “Why not?,” I’ll poll my readers to get their thoughts on what hunger-related nonprofit they’re most likely to support.  Immediately upon trying to come up with possible answers to my poll, I hit my first roadblock.  I was rattling off so many hunger-related nonprofits off the top of my head, that within 1 minute there were already too many options to even consider posting the poll.

It’s no secret that the nonprofit sector abounds with options for donors.  Even just a simple search of the word “hunger” on GuideStar left my with 1,592 options.  Adding “food” to that search resulted in a whopping 30,000 nonprofits involved in eradicating hunger. So, I’m curious how you, readers of Plumpy’nut Press, choose which nonprofits you like to support.  I won’t limit you to a defined set of poll options, but I want to hear your thoughts on how a nonprofit gains your trust.  After I hear from you, on my end I’ll try to arrange an interview with some of the front runners to learn more about their work!  I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say and keep the comments coming!

1,000 Days

Mother and Son in Malawi Photo Credit: Concern Worldwide

I’m sorry for being MIA recently on my blog!  I’ve just started an internship at Concern Worldwide US (amazing organization!) and have been settling into life in New York.  I’m working with Global Concerns Classroom, the high school branch of Concern Worldwide, and have been busy drafting a guide on the Millennium Development Goals.  I’m absolutely loving my internship, but what really sealed the deal is that directly across from my desk, there is a box filled with Plumpy’nut!  What better place to be interning?

On Monday, I’ll have more updates regarding Concern Worldwide and Bread for the World’s 1,000 Days Conference.  I’ve written a lot about the critical years of 1-5 in addressing malnutrition in children, but this conference will focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. On June 13th, world leaders and hunger activists will join to reinvigorate the fight against malnutrition.  To stay updated as the conference unfolds, follow @concernGCC, @Concern, or @bread4theworld on twitter this Monday!

%d bloggers like this: